Dr. D Did It: Kitty Bed From An Old Shirt

 

They say you should blog about what you’re good at and what makes you happy, then people will be more likely to enjoy what you write.

 

Well, you know I’m passionate about veterinary medicine, about a fear-free experience for pets, and about the human-animal bond. But did you also know that I love DIY?  🙂

 

Here’s some fun for ya:  I want to show you what “Dr. D Did”. Just because it’s fun, and it makes me happy.  And maybe you will “Did It” too! I’m sure your pets won’t complain.

 

Here’s what Dr. D Did today:

 

I took this original idea for a DIY cat tent made from an old t-shirt from Pinterest (click the image to go to the original article and get directions).

 

DIY Cat Tent From Old Shirt

 

And I made this for my kitties:

 

DIY Cat Tent for Jack

Don’t judge…I know it’s not pretty! But Jack doesn’t care. He is sleeping in it as I type this.

 

 

Here’s what you need:

  • An old shirt (I used an old scrub top, because, you know…veterinarian)
  • A piece of cardboard about 13×15 inches (I used the cardboard tray from a case of canned cat food)
  • two metal hangers
  • masking tape and/or safety pins
  • pliers and scissors

I happened to have all these supplies lying around my house, and the whole project took approximately 20 minutes.  That is including all the time I spent extracting a crazy kitten from the partially completed tent…

 

Cat Tent Blooper

 

If you “Did” this too, I want to see pictures!  You can send them to me at drd@smallthingsvhc.com, or post them to my Facebook page.

Dr. D Recommends: Catification

 

“Dr. D Recommends…” is a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

 

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

 

Catification

Catification. 

 

It’s a made-up word that means “making small changes to your living environment that benefit the cats you reside with”.  It was coined by the wonderful Jackson Galaxy, a cat-whisperer who got his start in Boulder, CO.

 

If you’ve seen any of Jackson’s popular Animal Planet show “My Cat From Hell”, you know that he has an uncanny ability to understand cats and their specific environmental needs. In the book Catification, Jackson explains how to give your cat opportunities to practice their natural instinctive behaviors to climb, scratch, and rest safely in your home, while still maintaining a stylish and comfortable home for the humans who live there.  His ideas range from simple DIY to fancy store-bought, and everything in between.

 

If you have a cat, you have probably heard me talk about environmental enrichment for their mental well-being. Cats have very specific and instinctive needs that we can accommodate fairly easily in our homes.  Without opportunities to climb, scratch, play, rest and own their space, cats will develop behavioral and medical problems.

 

I love this book, and here’s why:

  1. Jackson explains the most common personalities of cats, including my personal favorites – the tree-dwellers vs the bush-dwellers.
  2. He helps cat people determine what, if any, issue is plaguing their feline roommates, and how to remedy most situations with easy solutions.
  3. He empowers and encourages cat people to live freely with their felines, embracing what we love most about them and improving the human to cat bond.
  4. There are so many amazing ideas that are quick and easy to implement, right now!  In fact, right after I read this book, I immediately gave my kitties a couple new beds (which I made myself) and some new toys.  My home is in a constant state of improvement for the kitties’ benefit.

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If you have a cat, go pick up this book from your library or purchase it for your future reference! Also, this would be a perfect gift for the cat-lover or veterinarian in your life… just sayin’.

 

 

Do you have a cat with behavioral and/or medical issues, and you are ready for some professional help?  Give Dr. D a call – she does in-home consultations!

 

How to Give Your Cat Liquid Medicine

 

this-is-spunkys-medicine

 

Your veterinarian has prescribed medication for your cat.  And how, you might ask, should I get said medication down kitty’s gullet without stressing us both out completely?

Again, Dr. D is here to help!  I have created two videos, just for you, to show how I give liquid medication to a cat.  These are my kitties – one is super compliant, and the other one… not so much.

 

Video the First:

 

Main takeaways from this video:

  • Let your cat sit comfortably in a normal position, without cranking their head backwards.  They will swallow easier and be less stressed.
  • Gently place the tip of the syringe or dropper right behind the canine tooth, between the lips, and give a very small amount of liquid at a time.  No kitty likes to feel like they are drowning while something pokes them in the gums.
  • Take it sloooooooooooow.
  • Give really yummy treats when you’re done (and even during, if needed)!

 

And now, are you ready for a giggle?  Watch on…

Video the Second:

 

When using the towel-wrapping method that I so gracefully demonstrated for you:

  • Have your cat lay down fully on the towel before starting to wrap them.  Less space between their body and the towel ensures a secure burrito.
  • Make sure you use a towel that is large enough to cover your cat’s bum.  That way they can’t back out.
  • Wrap the front corner of the towel around the neck and above the feet. Hold the corner tight as you continue.
  • After the first layer goes over, tuck it under their belly.  This gives the towel more holding power once you wrap the second side over.
  • Wrap the second side over top, pulling the front edge around the cat’s neck and above the feet.  Do not wrap loosely, or your cat will scootch out the front.
  • Swaddle the kitty like you are securely swaddling a newborn.  This way, your bunny-kicking kitty won’t escape from the towel burrito.

 

I hope this was helpful!  I know it can be a challenge to medicate your cat, but with some patience, practice, and really yummy treats, you CAN be successful!

And isn’t it nice to know that even the professionals have some trouble every once in a while?  😉

 

If you’d like your kitty to have a low-stress veterinary experience, call me – Dr. D!

 

Dr. D Recommends… All Dogs Go To Kevin

 

I thought I might start a new category of blog articles for you, just for the fun of it.

“Dr. D Recommends…” will be a sporadic presentation of something I love (or just like a lot) that pertains to pets and/or veterinary-type stuff.  Something I think you might also like or find useful.

Or it might be silly.  That happens around here sometimes.

For this first installment, allow me to present to you the following book for your consideration:

 

All Dogs Go To Kevin by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang

 

All Dogs Go To Kevin is a memoir written by fellow veterinarian Dr. Jessica Vogelsang.  Dr. V provides in-home hospice care for dogs and cats, founded the website Pawcurious.com, and writes for several other media outlets.

From the cover:

All Dogs Go To Kevin is a humorous and touching memoir that will appeal to anyone who has ever loved an animal… It reminds us, with gentle humor and honesty, why we put up with the pee on the carpet, the chewed-up shoes, and the late-night trips to the vet: because the animals we love so much can, in fact, change our lives.

Why I Love It

Because Dr. Vogelsang is a veterinarian, I found a kindred spirit in her stories about veterinary school and working in a veterinary clinic.  Her anecdotes about veterinary practice feel very familiar to those in the field; she does a fabulous job of weaving together the truths, challenges, and compassion of what we do every day.

However, her memoir doesn’t alienate the layperson, but rather brings them alongside in the journey to becoming a vet.

Dr. V is not just a veterinarian; she is also a dog person, a pet lover, a mom and wife.  She includes bits of her life that resonated with me on so many levels.

The struggle of balancing motherhood and the veterinary career.

The joys, frustrations, and heartache of being a pet owner.

The way it feels when you have a dog-shaped hole in your heart that can’t be filled by anything other than a big slobbery beast.

And how your spouse often rolls their eyes at your constantly bleeding, pet-loving, heart.

I don’t read very many books from the “yet another pet book” category, but this one got my curiosity peaked, and once I started I couldn’t put it down.  It was a breath of fresh air, a validation of what I hold dear, and full of giggles and tears.  It was like reading James Herriot again, modernized for my generation.

If you’re a pet lover, I think you’ll like this.  If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Don’t Let Anesthesia Fears Delay Your Pet’s Teeth Cleaning

 

I have many senior patients in my practice, most of which are in need of dental work.  With good reason, the owners of these pets have concerns about anesthesia and the risks involved for elderly pets.

I spend a good amount of time talking with my clients about benefits vs. risks, and all the precautions and monitoring that go into anesthesia for pets (young and old).

Dr. Marty Becker wrote a great article that addresses most of the talking points I cover with my clients. I thought it would be helpful to share this with you on the blog.  Click the graphic to read it!

Don't let your fear of anesthesia delay your pet's dental cleaning.

 

The most important points I’d like you to know are these:

  • There is a risk involved with every single medical procedure and treatment that your pet has experienced, not just anesthesia.  But if your vet is recommending something, they have already determined that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Your veterinarian will take every possible precaution, choose anesthetic drugs specific to your pet, and will monitor them throughout the procedure and during recovery.  Just like in human medicine.
  • You will be amazed at how much better your pet feels after those yucky, uncomfortable teeth are cared for.

 

What other questions or concerns do you have about anesthesia for your pet?  Send them to me or write them in the comments – I’ll answer every one!

 

Does your pet have “dog breath” or “tuna breath”?  Let Dr. D take a look!  You can find all the contact information on the Small Things website.

Don’t Believe The Marketing: “Dental” Products Dogs Shouldn’t Chew

During the month of February, we are discussing important information regarding your pet’s dental health.  In the previous article on keeping your pet’s mouth healthy, I alluded to “dental products your dog shouldn’t chew”…

 

I know you want to purchase the right things to help your pet have a healthy mouth, and to help them with their instinctive need to chew things!  There is a lot of marketing hype out there.  It seems like every diet, treat, and toy package is screaming benefits for your dog’s teeth.  But many are actually unsafe!

 

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I know it’s hard to believe that something that is supposed to be helpful could actually be harmful – leading to fractured teeth, intestinal blockage (gastrointestinal obstruction), and/or tummy upset (gastroenteritis) – but these are things that veterinarians see regularly in practice.

I’m here to give you the low-down!

 

First, a few guidelines:

  1. For aggressive chewers, don’t give your pet any chew toy that’s hard enough that you wouldn’t want it to hit you in the knee.
  2. Always supervise your pet while they are chewing, since they may swallow large pieces (this could lead to problems!).
  3. Avoid products with abrasive surfaces, such as tennis balls.  These have a sandpaper effect on the teeth, wearing them down to the sensitive parts.
  4. Give a dental chew or treat every day for the best results.

 

 

No Rawhides

And now, I am going to tell you which commonly purchased products are not recommended by your veterinarian!

 

Bones (cooked, uncooked, butcher shop bones)

These are hard as a rock and slinter-prone.  Not a good idea for the teeth OR intestines.

 Antlers

Lots of tooth fractures with these. Beware!

 Cow hooves

Commonly cause tooth fractures, gastroenteritis, and pancreatitis!

Rawhides

Generally speaking, most dogs do okay with rawhides.  However, please exercise caution!  Your dog has to actually chew them for them to be effective, not swallow them whole (which commonly causes intestinal obstruction).

If you must give your pooch a rawhide, supervise them while they are chewing and take it away once it gets small enough to swallow whole.

Also, these treats have a ton of calories.  Not the best idea if your pet is overweight!

Pig’s ears

I have seen many dogs develop gastroenteritis and/or pancreatitis after eating these.  They are also very high in calories and fat.  And they can be swallowed whole.

Overall, not a good idea.

 

 

So what can I give my dog to chew?

 

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Here are the treats and chews I most commonly recommend for both dogs and cats:

  1.  Greenies
  2.  C.E.T. Chews (rawhide-like)
  3.  Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d  – You can feed this as your pet’s regular diet, or buy the small bag and use the kibble as treats!

 

You do have an advocate (other than me, of course)! The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) is a trusted resource for choosing an appropriate dental health product for your pet, and has approved several products for dogs and cats.  Look for their seal of approval on the packaging when choosing a treat or toy for your pet.

VOHC_Accepted_Seal

 

I hope this helps clear up some confusion for you!

If you have questions about specific products, or dental health, let me know in the comments below.  I will answer every question!

 

Dr. D’s Tips: Keeping Your Pet’s Mouth Healthy

 

Okay, I know you get tired of hearing it.  Every time you see the veterinarian she tells you that you should be brushing your pet’s teeth.  But, seriously.  Doesn’t the vet know that I find it difficult to follow my own dentist’s recommendations for MY teeth every day, let alone my pet’s teeth?

I get it.  Truly I do.

I still have to tell you how to care for your pet’s teeth… because if I don’t tell you how to prevent dental disease, you’re going to be upset with me when you have a very expensive bill for tooth extractions later in your pet’s life.  Not to mention the possibility of heart, liver, and kidney disease that is associated with severe dental disease.

So, humor me, just one more time.  I’m going to try to make this easy!

 

The GOOD, BETTER, and BEST of pet dental health goes like this:

 

Dog::Essential Healthymouth water additive

GOOD:  Water additives and dental gels

 

These products are relatively new to the pet-product scene, and so there aren’t many that get the veterinary seal of approval.  One water additive, Dog::Essential Healthymouth, is approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) which is a group of leading board certified veterinary dentists from around the world.

It works just like you’d think it does – you add the liquid to your pet’s water daily, and it helps slow the accumulation of dental plaque.  It helps a bit in pets with otherwise healthy mouths, but isn’t going to do much if your pet already has significant dental disease.

 

 

Greenies Products

 

BETTER:  Dental chews and treats

 

You’ve seen them in the pet store.  It seems like every treat, toy, and food is screaming at you that it’s Great For Your Pet’s TeethFreshens breathEliminates Dental Tartar!

The marketing is fabulous.  I would love to believe it, too!

Unfortunately, no treat or toy is going to magically make your pet’s dental disease disappear.  Certain chews and treats, however, can minimize the build-up of dental plaque, thereby slowing the progression of dental disease.

Not all treats and chews are created equal.  Look again for the VOHC seal of approval!  I personally prefer Greenies and C.E.T. chews for this category.  One per day is enough, and make sure to purchase the right size for your pet.

(By the way, be on the lookout for a future blog post about “dental health” products your dog shouldn’t chew on!)

 

 

Dog Toothbrush

 

BEST:  Brush your pet’s teeth!

 

If you really want to earn a chocolate chip cookie from your veterinarian, brush your pet’s teeth a minimum of 3 times a week.  No really.  You’ll be my favorite client EVER.

Brushing your pet’s teeth (I like this kit) is the only surefire way to keep your pet from developing serious dental disease. Use a pet-specific toothpaste (they have fun flavors!), a soft-bristled toothbrush, and lots of positive reinforcement!

I’m sorry to say that once a month isn’t going to do the trick.  The veterinary dental specialists have spoken, and they say that brushing every day is the gold standard.

But 3 times a week is acceptable.

Once a week or less?  You might as well start saving for that dental cleaning next year.  🙂

 

Added bonus:  Here’s the video I made, just for you, to show you how to brush your dog’s teeth.

 

 

 

DIY Cat Scratching Platform (that actually works) for less than $10!

 

I have a cat who loves to scratch.  He is also a horizontal scratcher, which means he likes to get his claws into my carpets.  As you can imagine, over time, my kitty is completely capable of destroying a rug.

Here’s the other dilemma:  Commercial cat scratch platforms are too small.  For a cat to get all the good endorphin release from scratching, he needs a few things:

  1.  He needs to be able to streeeeeeeeeeeetch the full length of his body.
  2.  The platform cannot move when he is scratching violently, or he will be too scared to use it.
  3.  It has to be the perfect substrate, which is different for every cat. (great…)
  4.  It has to show wear over time, because otherwise, how will he show everyone that this is HIS territory??

Because I love my kitty, and I couldn’t find a commercial cat scratch platform that was suitable, I decided to do it myself.  And I want to share it with all of you!

 

Supplies Needed:

 

Supplies needed for Cat Scratch Platform

Sisal rug from IKEA (or something similar), the size of a welcome mat

Scrap piece of plywood, cut a little smaller than the rug

Felt floor protectors (the kind you get for the bottom of furniture legs)

Hammer

Nails (with heads)

 

How to DIY:

This is truly the simplest DIY I think I’ve ever done!  It only took about 15 minutes to complete.

I actually trimmed the plywood myself, but if you have a small scrap you can make it work without cutting it.

Lay the sisal rug over the top of the plywood, lining up the edges.  It’s okay if the rug hangs over the edges a little (like an inch or less).

Use the nails with heads to attach the rug to the plywood, spacing them evenly around the edge of the rug.  Also attach the center area of the rug with a few evenly spaced nails to keep the rug from lifting too much when kitty scratches it.  (Choose nails that are short enough that they won’t go all the way through the plywood and scratch your floor!).

 

Cat Scratch Platform (2)

Flip the whole thing over, and attach the felt floor protectors to the bottom of the plywood.  This will keep the plywood from scratching your flooring when it moves around a little.

Place platform in your kitty’s favorite spot, and let him go at it!  You can entice your cat to scratch on the platform by sprinkling it with catnip or treats, and/or spraying the surface with feline pheromones (such as Feliway).

 

Goose on his cat scratcher

 

I hope your kitty enjoys this DIY project as much as mine does.  Please share pictures of your projects with me; I’d love to see them!

 

Things You Should Know: Trees or Bushes?

You may have heard me say this before:  Cats are typically either tree-dwellers or bush-dwellers.

 

Wondering why this is important?  How can you tell if your cat is a tree-dweller or bush-dweller?  And what are you supposed to do with that information once you figure it out?  What the heck are you talking about, Dr. D?

 

Tree or Bush?

Trees or bushes?  Why do we care?

 

Indoor cats have a unique problem among domesticated animals.  Their instinctive nature is not to be confined in a box, but to be free to climb, scratch, hunt, and hide.  When we bring a cat into our home, it’s easy to expect them to adapt to our human way of life.  Unfortunately, when we don’t provide our feline friends with acceptable outlets for their natural behaviors, they will often act out in negative ways.  This can include scratching your favorite chair, attacking other cats in the home, “going” outside the litter box, or getting sick.

If you have a multiple cat household, it is especially important to determine the preferences of each cat and provide them with the corresponding enrichment type.  This will not only provide your cats with mental and emotional comfort, but can help prevent many inter-cat conflicts.

Bottom line:  A cat with a healthy, mentally enriching environment will be a better and healthier companion.

 

Cat in condo

Tree-dweller or bush-dweller?

Okay.  So how can I tell if my cat is a tree-dweller or a bush-dweller?

 

First, read over the following lists while keeping your cats in mind.  Does your kitty seem to subscribe to more “tree” or “bush” behaviors?

Is your cat a tree-dweller or bush-dweller?

 

I’m learning so much!  What can I do for my cats now?

 

Now that you have an idea whether your cat prefers “trees” or “bushes”, here are some things you can do to easily provide your cat’s preferred environment.

A tree-dwelling cat

Observe – the brave tree-dwelling cat in his natural habitat…

For Tree-Dwellers

  • The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a tree-dweller’s space is VERTICAL.  Think cat trees with high perches, beds that hang on window sills, a book shelf or floating wall shelf that your cat can access, etc.  Find a place up high that your cat can get to, and put a comfy bed or blanket there.  Now your tree-dweller can freely survey his domain from on high.

 

A bush-dwelling cat

The elusive and secretive bush-dwelling cat…

For Bush-Dwellers

  • The number one thing to focus on here is HIDDEN.  Bush-dwellers like to hide low to the ground.  Think about adding boxes, hutches, covered cat beds or “condos”.  Even a cardboard box with a blanket inside can be the perfect “bush”.  Placement of the hidey hole is also key – make sure it’s out of the major flow of traffic and that your cat has an easy exit route so they don’t feel trapped.

 

I’d love to hear what type of kitty you have!  Tell me in the comments!

 

Got cat behavior questions?  Check out The Indoor Pet Initiative website for more great information!

Does my pet need insurance?

Q&A: Does my pet need insurance?

Is pet insurance a scam?  Or is it worth every penny?  How can a pet owner decide if insurance is worth the cost for their cat or dog?

 

I was going to write a blog post answering this question, and then someone else beat me to it.  And to be honest, she does a fabulous job of addressing this controversial topic – better than I could have!

 

So, if you are questioning the idea of pet insurance, I wholeheartedly recommend this article.

 

I used to think pet insurance was a ripoff.

 

Go check it out, and then let me know if you have any questions about pet insurance!